Diversity and Inclusion
Our inclusive activities

Introduction


A fundamental axis of the project is to reach out to the people with diverse identities and backgrounds in Mexico to help them to understand the seriousness of the problem we face every day when it comes to water pollution, as well as spread knowledge about scientific research. Our goal is to generate a positive impact on everyone by empowering them to do their part in saving our planet. We also sought to inspire people to pursue knowledge no matter where they come from and learn more about Synthetic Biology.

To decide on a target audience, a concept map was created specifying the groups we wanted to focus on and where they would be found.

With these groups in mind we designed activities for scientific divulgation, conscientization of the pollution crisis and data recollection.

Sorority in STEM


Traditionally, the field of engineering has been a male-dominated discipline. However in recent years, there has been a significant shift where more and more women from around the world break through barriers and stand up to stereotypes to enter the fascinating world of engineering. These women have shown their abilities and talents and have proven that there are no limits they cannot overcome.

Despite this, in 2023, women will make up only 28 % of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce (Zambrano, J., 2023).

There are several factors that widen the gender gap in STEM such as:

  • Stereotypes: Men are usually associated with STEM which solidifies the idea that careers like engineering are only for men (Zambrano, J., 2023).
  • Lack of women in STEM as role models: Women are still under-recognized in the field which results in a lack of role models and mentors to inspire the younger generation (Zambrano, J., 2023).
  • Work-life imbalance: Traditionally, women are expected to care for their families which can make balancing a career and home-life difficult (Zambrano, J., 2023).

The gender gap in STEM is complex and needs to be addressed from multiple angles. STEM careers are considered the jobs of the future as they are drivers of innovation, social welfare, inclusive growth and sustainable development and it's important for opportunities in this area to be accessible to everyone (UNESCO, 2020).

Figure 1. Women in STEM occupation. The most common occupation for women in the STEM area is computer and mathematical.

👷🏻‍♀️ STEM Women Conference: Success Stories and Challenges in the Profession

Dr. Danay Carrillo's conference explored different barriers and challenges she faced in her career. She talked about how she experienced the gender pay gap first hand, how the lack of family policies in the STEM workforce made it difficult for her to pursue her career, and the gender bias that creates many difficulties in the path of a female engineer with many dreams and aspirations.

Figure 2. Conference “Success Stories and Challenges in the Profession” with Dr. Danay Carrillo. (May 18, 2023).

👩🏻‍💻 STEM Roundtable

Female role models in STEM are a key pillar in motivating young girls and women to pursue a career in STEM. And having a successful mentor and someone to look up to is the key for them to stay in the degree, having someone to prove to them that it can be done and that it's worth it.

A roundtable discussion with two women engineers and 2 PhDs created an inclusive and safe space for the more than 30 female engineering students in attendance. Topics covered included unconscious bias, the gender gap, self-sabotage, and a culture of support among women in the STEM community.

Participants had the opportunity to network with the speakers. This motivated them to establish open dialogue and connect with talented women from other fields in STEM.

Speakers:

  • Prof. Ana Raquel Sanromán Calleros. Computer science engineer.
  • Prof. Ana Esquivel Lopez. Mechanical engineer.
  • Dr. Veronica Rodriguez Martinez. Food Engineer
  • Dr. Nancy Anabel García Carrera. Food Engineer
Figure 3. Engineering students at a round table discussion with the speakers. (May 17, 2023)
Figure 4. Round table discussion in collaboration with women for the future. Collaboration con WFF (May 17, 2023)

In order to perform both of the activities we did a collaboration with “Women For The Future”, a student group with the mission of inspiring more women to explore careers in STEM areas and encourage their active participation within them. Similarly, they work to create a community among current students.

Mexican Lottery


First things first, what is the Mexican Lottery?

In 1810 during the Mexican War of Independence ”lotería” became a common pastime among the soldiers. After returning from the war its popularity spread throughout Mexico and became a Mexican tradition. Since then “lotería” has been played in the homes of many Mexican families. The game consists of 54 cards with 16 labeled images that are randomly assigned to the players. Typically beans are used as tokens to mark each image on the card as they are called out by the card caller. The game begins when the card caller chants and draws a card at random. If the image of the card pulled by the caller appears in your game card, a bean is placed. This is repeated until a player completes the entire card and shouts "Lotto!” (Paul. 2019)

To connect different age groups through an easy-to-understand tool, we created a scientific lottery based on the concept of traditional Mexican lottery.The images on the cards are laboratory instruments and equipment or scientific concepts. While carrying out a trial playthrough of the lottery, a brief explanation of the image on the card was given, so that people would gain scientific knowledge in an interactive way. Lottery is a game that unites generations in Mexico, since all Mexicans regardless of age, from infants to seniors, know the rules of the game and pass the tradition on through generations.

Through this Mexican game, we have immersed ourselves and others in the world of science, raising awareness to the importance of research, the important and fun work in the laboratory, and the problems we are trying to solve with a focus on water pollution.

Figure 5. Scientific lottery in braille used along all the different collaborations.

Collaboration with the Secretariat of Education of Jalisco and the Secretariat of Development and Social Integration (SEDIS)


The blind and visually impaired members of the global STEM community are striving to become an agent of positive social and academic change. Braille science serves as a turning point in society because it helps the people in that group to become more actively involved rather than just staying on the sidelines.

Louise Braille invented this method of writing in the 19th century. It consists of an arranged 2 x 3 grid of raised dots as a tactile coding system for letters, symbols and numbers. It has broadened horizons for the blind and visually impaired as there was the belief that if a student couldn't see well , " he cannot learn science like mathematics or physics".Braille created specialized symbols for mathematical equations, chemical formulas, physics and genetic concepts, allowing people with this disability to become an active part of the STEM community (Cheste, J., 2018).

Currently, there are separate versions of Braille for English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Hindi, Hindu, Mandarin, and some indigenous languages. The Uniform bar examination (UEB) has been adopted where it includes the literary, mathematical and scientific symbols in a single code, thus facilitating universal understanding (Cheste, J., 2018).

To raise awareness and encourage children with visual impairments to pursue a career in science, a collaboration was established with the Jalisco Secretariat of Public Education and the Development and Social Integration Secretariat (SEDIS). They have been working for several years to make the political and social scene of Jalisco more inclusive to people with visual impairments. The scientific lottery we created was translated into Braille. This collaboration made it possible to include the blind and visually impaired in activities carried out by the iGEM team to inspire them as future scientists.

Collaboration with School for Blind Children A.C.


Having the lottery translated into Braille made it possible to visit the School for Blind Children A.C. in Jalisco, Mexico. This is a non-profit civil association whose goal is to provide comprehensive education to blind children and teenagers in order to promote independence and ease their involvement with society. The scientific lottery was played together with the children and to expand their scientific knowledge, while the cards were being called, an explanation of each concept and tool was given.

Figure 6. Team members at the school for blind children, "we see for them" playing the inclusive scientific lottery. (October 4, 2023)

Nursing Home: The Nuances of Age.


The years wrinkle the skin, but the renunciation of enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.
-Albert Schweitzer | Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 1952

Older adults have much to offer the world, they are a source of wisdom, experience, and love.

Old age is the final stage in an individual's life and research shows that cognitive function slows down with age (NIH, 2020). The oldest members of society are considered "not useful" because of their decreased abilities, but a recent study published in Cognitive Health and Older Adults concluded that older people have a lot more information stored in the brain compared to younger people, which is why retrieving it takes longer. Older people were also shown to have a greater sensitivity to detail (NIH, 2020).

We collaborated with the "Residencia Guadalupe", a home for the elderly in Jalisco, Mexico, that offers professional medical services, continuous nursing care and constant supervision. We performed the experiment of painting white flowers through the water mixed with food colorants and explained how this is an analogy to water pollution. We also carried out the scientific lottery activity within this group, because in Mexico, no matter what age you are, that game is extremely popular and unites everyone.

Figure 7. Day at the "Casa Guadalupe" nursing home, playing the scientific lottery and talking to them about our project and the importance of their participation. (October 5, 2023)

Working with Agencia de Bosques Urbanos: Bosque Urbano of Tlaquepaque


The Urban Forest Agency of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area is dedicated to the public administration of parks and urban forests ensuring their sustainability as well as offering environmental educational programs.a In collaboration with them, a series of workshops were organized for children with water-based experiments so that they could reflect on the importance of taking care of water.

The activities that were carried out were:

  • Rain colors. The children involved tried to mix water and oil with little drops of food coloring. After a while, they observed that the dye mixed with the water but stayed at the bottom, while the oil remained intact at the top. The children were asked to try and explain the reason, afterwards it was explained that substances with different densities do not mix and since the oil is more dense, it rises to the surface. This experiment allowed us to visually demonstrate that oil is capable of creating a layer on the surface of the water, making water unusable for humans and potentially killing living organisms in rivers, canals or seas.
  • Dyeing flowers through water absorption. Participating children added white flowers in a plastic cup filled with water and food coloring. After 10 min, the color of the flower changed depending on the concentration of food coloring.This helped us explain how plants absorb water and any contaminants present through their stem and roots.
  • Density differences. This activity consisted of understanding how waters' density can change by adding different substances to it. The children grabbed 4 cups with water and in every cup added a different component. The first cup had salt, sugar in the second, baking soda in the third, and the last cup was left alone. A marble was thrown in each of the cups and the children observed how in the salt and water mixture the marble floated more than the others, while in the cup with only water the marble sank immediately.
  • Scientific lottery. Same lottery that was played with the blind and the elderly.

With these activities we raised awareness about water pollution and conservation, and some methods to prevent contamination. Children were taught how to properly dispose of oil, they were told to never throw it into the sink. Activities like these help children understand that our actions have consequences and that simple actions can prevent disastrous outcomes.

Figure 8. Members of the team in Tlaquepaque urban forest giving workshops to children and young people on awareness of pollution in bodies of water and science. (September 23, 2023)

Collaboration with the National System for the Management of Packaging and Medication Waste A.C (SINGREM)


Normally, when medication expires, people dispose of them in the sink or by flushing them down the toilet. This improper method of waste management leads to water contamination, as seen in the Santiago River. To raise awareness within our university community about the correct methods of pharmaceutical waste disposal, we contacted the National System for the Management of Packaging and Medication Waste A.C (SINGREM). This civil association receives the support of health and environmental authorities for the management and correct disposal of expired and excess medication. We formed an agreement between our university and the association to set up a “SINGREM Safe Containers” on campus. These are made of high-density polypropylene with a transparent viewing window, a safety cylinder for the waste disposal tank and a maximum capacity of approximately 50 liters. Taking part in the “SINGREM” collection plan will reduce the potential environmental damage that improperly discarded drugs generate and give students, on-campus medical services and faculty members a safe way to dispose of their unneeded medication.

Figure 9. Sketch of the container for the collection of drugs in collaboration with SINGREM.

“Right here we will start to save the water bodies from emerging contaminants!”

Participation at the 1st Latin American Conference of Engineers in Medicine and Biology (IEEE EMBS R9 2023)


One of the team members had the opportunity to participate as a speaker in the discussion "Educate and innovate to build a BioTech ecosystem" at the 1st Latin American Conference of Engineers in Medicine and Biology (IEEE EMBS R9 2023), where she discussed alongside experts in the area of innovation about the impact of our project as well as topics of education, soft skills and communication.


Figure 10. Women in STEM: Nelia Sofia Méndez Cortés, a team member, attended the Latin American Congress of Engineers in Medicine and Biology, as a speaker . (October 7, 2023)

Conclusion


Our goal was to reach out to people with diverse backgrounds in Mexico and start a conversation about water pollution so that we could break barriers and raise awareness about scientific research and water pollution. While carrying out the different activities, we learned that simple explanations resonate the most with our audience and allow them to perceive science, not as something boring or difficult, but as something entertaining and can help us achieve a brighter future. Workshops were designed around topics involving water and concepts that would entice the Mexican audience, such as games like the “loteria”. We also wanted to create awareness of the stigma and challenges that surround women in STEM and inform our community about the steps to properly dispose of expired medicines. Finally, we made a dent in the barrier that the visually impaired face by translating the “loteria” to braille language.

📋 Sidenote:

So that the team goes in accordance with iGEM's values regarding privacy, whenever we took a photo or interviewed someone, they were asked for their consent and if they agreed to it.


  1. Chester, J. (2018,). Teaching UEB Science Signs to Braille Learners. Paths to Literacy. https://www.pathstoliteracy.org/teaching-ueb-science-signs-braille-learners/
  2. NIH (2020). Cognitive health and older adults. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/cognitive-health-and-older-adults
  3. Paul. (2019). Historia de la loteria mexicana. https://manomexicana.com/p/historia-de-la-loteria-mexicana
  4. UNESCO (2020). Boosting gender equality in science and technology: a challenge for TVET programmes and careers.https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000374888
  5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023). Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. Bls.gov. https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.html
  6. Zambrano, J. (2023). The Gender Gap in STEM | MIT Professional Education. https://professionalprograms.mit.edu/blog/leadership/the-gender-gap-in-stem/#:~:text=In%202023%2C%20the%20gender%20gap